Unusual Business Ventures: Extreme Sports and Yoga Retreat Developed by Canadians

Extreme sports – Borderlands

Canoeing at Borderlands (courtesy of Joanna Kane-Potaka)

Wade Campbell and Viren Perera are two Canadians who have developed activities that span the cerebral and meditative to the most intensely physical. They are both Torontonians who left to pursue adventure in Sri Lanka.

Campbell is a trained leader from Outdoor Bound, a well known company in Canada that specializes in wilderness programming.

The company that he and his wife built in Nepal before transferring to Sri Lanka in 2003, is Borderlands, an adventure-based training program. The 15-acre property developed in Nepal near the Tibetan border offered  adventure travel for a decade until the Maoists moved in. That break in operations pushed Borderlands to Sri Lanka when peace seemed at hand and the Sri Lanka Tourism Board was keen to facilitate new investment.

To operate a successful adventure-based learning program that features rock climbing, mountain biking, kayaking, canoeing, river rafting and camping in “remarkable natural environments” requires equipment.

Borderlands adventure seekers (courtesy of Joanna Kane-Potaka)

Importing specialized camping equipment – lifejackets, tents, helmets etc – was expensive so in 2005, Edge was developed to produce the gear locally. The first Outdoor outfitters shop in Sri Lanka was born and the canoes and kayaks are visible at the store on Stratford Avenue, Colombo 6. There is a one- day “Canadian canoeing skills” course amongst the assortment of team building and wilderness first aid courses offered by 20 Sri Lankan staff based largely in Kitigala.

Campbell laughs at some of the pitfalls experienced over the years in Sri Lanka. He survived the sea kayaking adventure where he says, “the difference between a tourist and a terrorist” was not always easy to determine, which is why the Sri Lankan navy, locked in battle at that time with the LTTE, arrested them. This is when good Sri Lankan friends and silent partners make a huge difference. He was rescued on more than one occasion.

Ulpotha – a yoga retreat

Viren Perera launched a sports activity business of a vastly different kind when he stumbled upon a yoga retreat idea and called it Ulpotha or “water spring” after the underground springs in the area. The University of Toronto grad had been an investment banker associated with some of Colombo’s upscale hotel properties before developing a decidedly informal, rural yoga retreat mostly for himself and friends.

People from around the world come to stay for one or two weeks in isolated, rural Kurunegala district for sessions that take place twice each year. The 20 acres sustains local food production that fuels the yogis. With a maximum of 20 yogis, there are 35 staff who maintain the beautiful but simple grounds. The yoga retreat is in a jungle setting where there are occasional mishaps such as when the termites destroy a building. Time to replace it is the thinking… and so construction begins anew.

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